Soils, Rainfall Influence Payoff of Spoon-Feeding Nitrogen in Corn

Growers with sandy or heavy textured, poorly drained soils that experience nitrogen leaching or denitrification are most likely to benefit from split nitrogen applications.

When it comes to designing and implementing a nitrogen (N) application plan for no-tilled or strip-tilled corn, the options seem limitless. 

Between the various tools, N sources and technology available, growers have a lot to consider when deciding when and how they’ll apply N fertilizer to produce the most bushels for the least amount of N.

One approach is to split N up into several applications based on when the corn plant will need it — also known as spoon feeding. But determining how many N applications to make and when to apply them all depends on the unique environmental factors a grower is dealing with.

“What we have observed is that N is very mobile in the soil environment,” says Mark Alley, crop consultant and retired Virginia Tech University Extension soil scientist. “And so for any given field, in any specific season, those reactions that affect my N availability are going to differ.”

Soil, Rain Impact Timing

For growers trying to manage their N program for profitability, as well as environmental sensitivity, Alley says they have to think through all the factors that can affect N applications. One major influencer is the soil and how it holds water.

Retired Kansas State University Extension soil fertility specialist Dave Mengel says sandy or heavy textured, poorly drained soils can experience N loss through leaching and denitrification, respectively.

Most farmers are in tune with their soils and whether they leach or denitrify, but Alley notes they can also use the NRCS’s web…

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Laura allen

Laura Barrera

Laura Barrera is the former managing editor of No-Till Farmer and Conservation Tillage Guide magazines. Prior to joining No-Till Farmer, she served as an assistant editor for a greenhouse publication. Barrera holds a B.A. in magazine journalism from Ball State University.

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